Project Runway Post-Show Chat, Week 2

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 22 2010 12:49 AM

Project Runway Post-Show Chat, Week 2

After each episode of Project Runway ’s seventh season, a gaggle of Slatesters will gather to dish about the show. This week, the challenge was to make a party dress out of burlap sacking. Jay Nicolas Sario was the winner, and Pamela Ptak was sent home.

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June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

Hanna Rosin: Now that's a Project Runway . A fantastic challenge, executed in many interesting and surprising ways. A little bit of hating and drama. Ass flaps and a flash of nipple. Plus, I think they made the wrong decision on both sides, which always gets me exercised. But before I get critical, didn’t you both think that was the best challenge in a long, long while? 

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David Plotz: I totally agree. Those were stunning dresses tonight, and so environmentally friendly. It was locavore fashion, consuming low on the food chain.

June Thomas: I wish it had been one step further from "make a pretty dress," since it was basically "make a pretty dress in a difficult fabric," but I agree that it led to some gorgeous garments (and a few monstrosities). And it was worth it to see Tim Gunn's full-body shudder when Jay did a cartwheel in the muddy field.

H.R.: What do you mean, one step further? Isn't it always effectively make a pretty dress? That was burlap, for God's sake, as old as Moses, as Emilio said. And it produced a handful of amazing dresses in many shades.

J.T.: I like an unusual materials challenge, but I prefer it when they have to make a beautiful garment out of something that isn't fabric—like groceries or parts of a car. One definite upside of the challenge was that the material took dye so well some of the colors and effects were truly spectacular. I really loved Amy's petal effect , for example. The trick of making a really sophisticated look from a very basic fabric was a good one, but I wanted to see them braiding fronds that they grabbed from a florist’s stall or the sweepings from a hairdresser's salon.

D.P.: Michael said of Mila's dress , "The boys will like it," and speaking for the boys, I certainly did (though I found the repeated blurring of the model's right nipple irritating). Mila has the potential to become reality-TV royalty. Her apparently vast talent is inextricably knotted to a seething, passive-aggressive fury. Did you catch that moment, after her model abandoned her for Anthony, when she hissed at him, "It's funny she would pick you over me." Anyone who says "it's funny" like that is someone who would push you under a truck. Yet that very reservoir of rage must drive her, because she certainly made a knockout dress.

H.R.: Oh, David, you are so harsh. A girl needs to process. It's humiliating, having your half-starved, no-talent wench of a model leave you standing out there in the hayfield, the wind whistling past. She had to take it out on someone.

J.T.: At first, I thought that Mila was wasting energy stressing out about something a model had done (and taking it out on Anthony was smart if you're "playing the game" and messing with your opponents' heads, but it’s not at all fair Anthony hadn't done anything to make Mila's model bail), but I agree, it helped her get to her rageful place, which is apparently where her creativity resides.

D.P.: And it sure didn't hurt Anthony, whose red dress was a legitimate contender for the top three, I thought.

A moment about my favorite dress of the night. Amy's burlap flower was incredibly brave. It made the fabric do all the work. And the dye job—a frame of black, fading into a mist of brown, fading into the tan burlap—mesmerized me. That was the coolest bit of work of the night.

J.T.: I also would've given the nod to Amy for the petals, the subtle styling on the halter straps that Lauren Hutton pointed out, and the way she made this very stiff fabric seem soft and flowy. I was not as wowed as the judges were by Mila's look there sure was a lot of burlap covered up on that dress. Of course, it was tight, short, and shiny, which are Heidi's three favorite qualities in a garment. Jay's feathers did nothing for me partly, I think, because his dye job was so dark, so the fiddly bits really didn't show up well on television.

Seth's hooded dress was exquisite. And I speak as someone who does not care for his self-presentation (though his hair was less offensive this week). I know I shouldn't be so affected by the way the designers dress themselves on the runway, but I can't help it. I loved Jonathan's vesty look—very Simon Baker in The Mentalist and Jesus' bow-tie was adorable.

H.R.: I'm with you on Seth and Amy. Especially Amy. I was way more impressed by her ability to transform burlap into something flowy and subtle than by those tedious black feathers. And you have perhaps hit on why they did not kick out Jesus that cute baby Elvis meets Pee-wee Herman look.

I'm still a little puzzled about why the judges are giving Ping such a wide berth. That was a tedious, ill-fitting dress . And the model's  crack was showing, a fact the camera emphasized several times. Is it just the comic relief? Or is there some potential there?

J.T.: Ping not being sent home for that garment is one of those decisions that makes me doubt the integrity of the competition. That skirt was an abomination. I am grateful for the new insult "ass flap," but I don't ever want to see another. That was not "edgy," as one of the judges suggested; it was ugly, amateurish, and ugly again. (And her model was an idiot to stick with her she had the chance to go with another designer, and she should have.) It must be producer manipulation. Next week is a team challenge, so the producers knew that whoever was paired with Ping would be in for a whole world of drama. I can see no other reason to keep her.

D.P.: It is mysterious that they booted Pamela Ptak (I just like writing her name), when they could have booted the ass-flashing nursery-school project that Ping made, or the second astonishingly tedious dress from Jesus. Incidentally, Jesus has now referred to himself in the third person two weeks in a row, which is in itself justification for expulsion.

J.T.: Third-personification apart, what did you think of the judges' critique of Jesus' dress ? It's legitimate to ding him for covering up too much burlap, but I thought they were wrong to say that his dress was "mundane and matronly" and to complain about the colors. Maybe he used too much ribbon, but I thought it looked great the undulating layers of that beautiful green color really popped against the brown. It felt very painterly to me.

H.R.: Jesus is not going to rise to the occasion, designing as he does for his mom's friends. His future is at the neighborhood hair salon. I felt the same about the winner. I understand the value of the trickery making burlap look like feathers. But the final result was not all that interesting not nearly as edgy as Mila's, or as nice as that pair of red dresses, or even that bitchen Red Riding Hood get-up from Seth.

D.P.: Seth. I'm beginning to hate that guy. Did you catch his snigger at Ping's bare-ass dress?

H.R.: Also, the dude wears nail polish. David, could you ever love a man who wears nail polish?

J.T.: I would've kept Pamela over Ping, but the ass-magnification powers of Pamela's dress were spectacular. Too. Much. Butt. And I know she was very proud of producing a color that evoked denim, but many of the other contestants created more interesting shades.

H.R.: Well, June, you can't complain about Pamela's dress and forget what Michael Kors said about Jesus' dress. Too. Much. Butt. juxtaposed with No. Butt. At. All. The colors were fine by me, but I hated that ass-ymmetry. Especially on the back side.

JT: I was not in love with the back of Jesus' dress. All that focus on the zipper was a very bad idea.

D.P.: Not to reveal my mannish ignorance too much keep in mind that I did not know the difference between a skirt and a dress until I was 21 years old but what the heck is hambre or ombre or hombray ? And why were we supposed to be so impressed that Ptak was ptakking it?

H.R.: Well, hombre . It's o-m-b-r-e. And here's a video demo . It's sort of like making Jell-O, and then dipping fabric in it. I've tried it before, but I ended up with colors nothing like those nice reds and grays.

D.P.: Is it too early for us to predict our top three for the season? I don't think so. I have my money on Amy, Emilio, Mila, and Seth. You ladies care to join me?

H.R.: Uh, that's the top four , David. Harder to pick three. I'll knock Mila off your list, since Tim Gunn complained about having too many women last time.

J.T.: My ridiculously early pick for the top three would be Emilio, Seth, and Amy. How spooky that we all predict the same Fashion Week finalists, but remember, there are lots of designers whose work we really haven’t seen yet.

Previous chats: Week 1

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